Ada Hilton shares her reflections on building bridges and not always needing to be right.
Three years into what seemed like an irreparable breakdown in relations with my eldest child, a complete stranger who I encountered “randomly” on the Heathrow Express, tentatively pointed me to the writings of a poet named Rumi.
I’m ashamed to say I had never heard of this renowned 13th century muslim poet, but when she gave me a paraphrase of the verse, I immediately understood why she had. I was certain that God had given it to me for a purpose. So, rather like Mary, I hid it in my heart to reflect on.
"Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there." I could see that field! It was bright, flower-filled and beautiful with the relationship we had once enjoyed and seemingly never could again. To do that we would both have to go through the gate of apology and forgiveness which was sunk in a stinking mire of hurt, accusation and reproach. It would never happen, would it? But now I knew about it I ached to be in that field – but where and when I hadn’t a clue.
"Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there."
I had studied the Prodigal Son story forensically. The son moved first, out of hunger and the need for a job! Only then did he turn for home and prepare the words of apology he would use. The father did not move until he had sensed that turning. There was no point in going earlier and hauling him back. He knew that reconciliation would not last unless both parties wanted it.
And boy did he want it! As soon as he could sense his son had turned towards home he was away. To meet him, a long way off – in that field? And reconciliation took place. It was a good thing it happened in that field, because as soon as they got home, there was the older brother ready to throw all those wrongdoings and rightdoings at both of them.
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Slow forward about two years after my God engineered encounter, I discovered - and that’s another story- that my prodigal had turned in my direction. I was filled with such a longing to meet, but still had no idea how.
One night, God kept me awake, filling my mind with fantasies fit for an action-packed thriller. I finally had a cunning, dramatic plan. It involved subterfuge, a willing support crew, two nine-hour car journeys and two overnight stays. Oh, and gate-crashing Christmas! Most importantly, it needed such faith on the crew’s part; were they reading the signals correctly? It was a mad, crazy plan and, just like the father’s heart was quaking until he embraced his son, so was mine.
The prodigal’s father didn’t even listen to the apology. Instead he said: “Let’s celebrate!”
Reconciliation took place. Our relationship was restored and the peace that swept through me at that moment could only have been from God. The miry mud around the gate still exists. We don’t go near it and, as love has flowed through reconciliation, the reasons for the rupture decrease in importance with time.
So where are we with forgiveness? I admit sometimes my resentment and self pity worm themselves out of that shrinking pond and I have to speak severely to myself - again. Have truth and justice been compromised? Apologies are difficult and depend on perspective – you might be waiting all your life. The prodigal’s father didn’t even listen to the apology. Instead he said: “Let’s celebrate!”
While God gave up his Son to reconcile us to him. Unconditionally. Is he the best one to judge? Oh yes!